The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation review of Azusa Pacific University culminated in October 2012 with the Educational Effectiveness Review (EER), the final site visit. During the three-day event, the WASC team evaluated student learning and achievement of student outcomes, emphasizing the four themes: transformational scholarship, God-honoring diversity, faith integration, and intentional internationalization. The team reviewed graduation and retention rates, programs to ensure student success, and university assessment processes to evaluate educational effectiveness and program review. Finally, focusing on two areas of concern identified during the Capacity and Preparatory Review in March 2011, the team evaluated APU’s progress toward comprehensive strategic planning and financial stabilization.
“The accreditation process enabled the university to engage in activities that would build capacity around the four themes,” said Vicky Bowden, DNSc, professor of nursing and WASC accreditation liaison officer. “This experience represents much more than jumping through regulatory hoops; it facilitates essential institutional self-reflection and leads to campus-wide improvements.”
The university initiated several programs and processes to address the areas of scholarship, diversity, faith integration, internationalization, curricular support, and strategic planning. The new Office of Curricular Support coordinates tracking and implementation of all new academic initiatives and programs, and oversees the catalog and website revision process. These changes, coupled with a new Strategic Planning Handbook that aligns with the Shared Vision 2022, elevated the WASC team’s analysis.
Strengthening transformational scholarship, the new Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (CTLA) centralizes support for faculty teaching and assessment processes by making data more accessible, relevant, and efficient. Additionally, an increased emphasis on student and faculty scholarship prompted more robust scholarship funds, an activity insight coordinator to better document scholarly activities, and a biannual undergraduate and graduate scholarship update report. A sharpened focus on partnerships between students and professors deepens the value of the educational experience. With plans for increasing paid summer opportunities for undergraduates, students stand as the primary beneficiaries of APU’s renewed focus on scholarship.
A restructured Office of Diversity and a new fellows program communicated to the review team that APU continues to value God-honoring diversity. In addition, the Office of Faith Integration also implemented a fellows program and developed a Faith Integration Handbook to communicate the university’s goals and policies to faculty, staff, and students.
These and other efforts culminated in a positive exit interview that commended APU for being “clearly seen as a leader in the world of faith-based higher education, and for the extensive and sustaining effort it has made in the area of faith integration. The university has developed an extensive infrastructure to support learning and faith living activities in curricular and co-curricular programs.” APU also received a commendation for “the progress that has been made in strategic planning. It provides vision, structure, and process that carry out the mission and priorities of the institution.” The reviewing team issued one recommendation to continue developing programs to measure and assess student-learning outcomes.
The WASC Commission will meet in February 2013 to review the visiting team’s findings and determine the length of APU’s reaccreditation.
“APU’s investment in its thematic priorities is embedded in department and institution assessment processes, strategic planning, faculty evaluation, and the tangible outcomes of scholarship by faculty and students,” said Bowden. “This process and our campus-wide response to make important improvements impact the hearts and minds of our students, and prepare them to become difference makers throughout the world.”